Just a few weeks ago, South Africa’s best women’s soccer players were in France battling other countries on soccer’s biggest stage – the FIFA women’s world cup.
In 2018 when Banyana Banyana beat Mali to advance to the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations championship game, they secured their spot to compete in the World Cup. This was a historical event for the team and South Africa, as it was the first time they were able to represent their country on the world stage. The team unfortunately went 0-3 in this tournament, losing 3 close games to Spain, China, and Germany.
Striker Thembi Kgatlana was the star for South Africa during the World Cup. The 23- year-old has already been turning heads as she won the 2018 African Women’s footballer of the year and African women’s goal of the year awards. She was also the lead scorer at the 2018 African Women Cup of Nations. Kgatlana made history for South Africa as she scored the first ever World Cup goal for Banyana Banyana. Already a star player at such a young age, Kgatlana serves as an inspiration for young women all across South Africa.
Banyana Banyana was formed in 1993, playing their first official match against Swaziland on May 30,1993.
It has been a long and hard road to success for the team, but they have been showing a lot of promise in recent years. They qualified for their first ever Olympics in 2012, and they went again in 2016. At the Olympics they did not get the results they had hoped for, going 0-1-2 in both of their showings, but it was still a huge achievement for them to be able to compete.
Current coach, Desiree Ellis, has had a long relationship with the South African National team and has had a large part in their development and success.
Desiree grew up in Cape Town, where she would often play soccer after school with boys and her cousins, because there were no women’s clubs. She played on the women’s national team in their first ever game against Swaziland, where she scored a whopping 3 goals! She captained the team in the 2000 African women’s championship where they finished as runners-up. She retired from her playing career in 2002 at age 38.
In 2016, when former manager Vera Pauw resigned, Ellis was appointed interim manager of the team. In February of 2018 she became the official head coach, and led the team to a second place finish in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. That same year she won the Confederation of African Football’s Women’s Coach of the Year award.
After their defeat at the World Cup, Ellis stated that despite the result she was still proud of their spirit and the commitment they had to each other.
The moment she said stood out to her the most was: “Walking onto the pitch and hearing the national anthem play. I realised that we are at the World Cup.”
Even though they were not able to win any games, just being invited to the tournament, and being able to represent their homeland of South Africa, meant so much to them.
It also meant a lot to their supporters as they were given a heroes’ welcome when they returned. Supporters sung and cheered as the team walked through the airport, showering the team with affection.
Banyana Banyana’s success will continue to grow as time goes on. By getting into the World Cup they only got a small taste of success, and they are hungry for more. With young stars such as Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo, as well as a great coach in Desiree Ellis, the team is bound for greatness!
Tell us: Did you watch any of Banyana Banyana games during the World Cup?